God Given Knowledge?
A long while back I did a series of hubs detailing all the absurd things that God gets credit for in our world, everything from recoveries from diseases to athletic ability. God seems to possess the ability of getting credit for doing all the wonderful things in the world while somehow shirking his all powerful responsibilities when misfortune comes our way.
In this hub I'm going to dust off the series to talk about one of the primary ways in which God supposedly communicates with mankind – direct divine “revelation”. The way that God told the Biblical authors what to write and the way that millions of Christians to this day believe that God conveys messages to those chosen few with spiritual ears to listen. I'm going to try to show that not only should God not receive credit for these messages but that even if he was the one sending them they wouldn't be trustworthy.
Ye of No Faith
In many debates theists will make the claim that without God true knowledge is impossible. This is most commonly on display when the believer is employing a form of presuppositionalism, or the brand of apologetics that claims that we all know God exists because apart from God we couldn't know anything at all. The argument goes that if there is no God there is no reason to assume our senses and perceptions are accurate or that our experiences are even real. In other words if there is no God than Solipsism becomes a real serious problem for us because we can never truly know. All the debater then has to do is say that God, the ultimate omniscient authority, dissolves any doubts because he knows everything.
The problem with this, other than the fact that it creates a problem which God has nothing to do with and awkwardly shoves him in as a solution, is that theism does nothing to dissolve the problem of Solipsism. If reality is all just an illusion happening in our minds than there is nothing stopping God from simply being a part of that illusion. Even if he did exist outside of our minds there is nothing stopping God from deceiving us or fooling our senses because our senses and mental abilities would still be just as fallible and prone to mistakes whether theism was true or not.
You see presuppositionalists like Sye Ten Bruggencate will often make the claim that without a God, an ultimate authority to back things up, everything is somehow subjective, that reality is somehow forfeit as a concept without a grand puppet master to shove its hand up the Universe’s ass and make it talk. If we're all just chemical machines processing the world through fallible and often deceptive sensory input how can we really know anything at all? Insert God here.
The Good Shepard
God has the last word on what is real and what is not, after all he created the Universe, so Sye and his ilk have weaseled their way out of the problem they so pain-stakingly created right? Wrong.
Recently atheists on youtube have been reacting to and laughing hysterically at Pastor and professional bullshitter Josh Feuerstein, who posted the now world famous 100,000 Dollar Challenge for atheists to provide evidence for the non-existence of God. Of course this same argument could be used to “prove” anything, not just God. Everything and anything imaginative and ridiculous that might exist outside the current purview of our knowledge could be held up with this same broken burden-of-proof shifting logic.
In his video the good Pastor explains a version of this diagram:
In it he asks atheists if God could exist in this vast expanse of knowledge that we do not yet possess as human beings. Well yes Josh, yes he could, but so could a million OTHER Gods that you reject.
You would not pretend, for fear of Hellfire, that Zeus and Thor were also out there, dwelling within that circle of knowledge not yet possessed by mankind. That is because everything we know about these things we call Gods exists within that self-same minuscule dot that represents human knowledge.
Every last piece of information about the God of the Bible exists only within the minds of human beings and, like all other claims, the claim to God's existence fails or succeeds based on whether it can be objectively verified by evidence. People presupposing God because without him they'd have to rely on their own faulty human minds have not provided any evidence for God and have not provided an escape route by which an unproven God concept can somehow solve the problem to begin with. Whether God exists or not our understanding of him would necessarily be based on those self-same flawed human senses and reasoning. That's where direct divine revelation steps in in an attempt to rescue the theist, for how can we doubt when God can simply MAKE US KNOW directly?
The Trickster God
All of these arguments from the theistic side are meant to make us doubt ourselves as human beings because some Christians still go around thinking that atheists have faith that “there is no God”. They are there to say, “we know so little about so little and that through our limited senses, shouldn't we trust in the one true authority, that way we can rest easy? Why deny he exists when you know that you don't know he ISN'T real.”
There is also, of course, an element of shifting the burden of proof. But as a skeptic and an atheist I do not start believing in things on the basis of the fact that they haven't been disproved completely enough to totally rule out their existence.
According to Sye Ten Bruggencate however God has revealed himself to certain Christians in such a way that they might KNOW that he exists. Direct divine revelation is knowledge granted directly by God, it can come in the form of prophetic dreams, wisdom, etc. But in case Christians have forgotten, they are still limited by their own ability to discern reality from fantasy.
Even if we grant the existence of God Christians can still only learn of this God through their own fallible senses, there simply is no other mechanism for them to learn it. Even if conveyed telepathically from some spiritual plane of existence their knowledge could still be faulty. You might ask yourself, how can knowledge from an all-knowing God be faulty or unreliable? Because there is absolutely nothing stopping God from lying.
Let's say the God of the Bible DOES EXIST but that every revelation he has given mankind has been a grand deception on his part. If our only knowledge of God comes from God himself how can we say that it is truthful? If a seemingly supernatural being descends from the sky and tells you that he is always honest and never lies and that he possesses all knowledge you have only your own faculties to explore the claim. You might test this being's knowledge by asking it to give you knowledge that human beings did not yet possess, perhaps some scientific formula we had not yet discovered but even if the formula was accurate how could we say the being was ALL knowing or ALWAYS honest?
Even more troubling such a God could be lying but have the power to force you to believe what it was saying, you would be powerless to stop an omnipotent being from persuading you. The odds of such a being turning out to be perfectly benevolent would be astronomically small and making such an assumption about that being, whether based on that beings own word or not, would be astronomically stupid.
Christians have to use the same flawed sensory organs, the same reasoning prone to irrationality and bias and the same natural and societal moral sensibilities that EVERYONE ELSE has. God is not a “Get out of Solipsism” free card nor does he answer the question of how we can know something is actually true if anything the existence of a being makes knowledge on any subject more difficult to be sure of. God could be lying and the only thing that makes theists think he is not is because he said so.
Because the supernatural cannot, or has not, been objectively verified the employment of faith is used, would faith even be necessary if divine revelation were a thing? Would an honest God not make itself known in such a way to, well, everyone, even remote tribesman in the Amazon? And yet we see a world of religions with contradictory ideas divided primarily by geography, Buddhists teach their children to be Buddhists, Muslims teach their children to be Muslims, etc. We do not see the evidence of direct revelation, otherwise Missionaries spreading the good word to distant lands would never have even been necessary.
What we see from claims of divine revelation, channeling, and other supposed contacts with the spiritual and supernatural are a vast and varied array of different and contradictory claims none of which have ever met even the simplest burden of proof. So we might well gather that if these people are receiving messages that they are being lied to by the great big circle jerk in the sky. But what if the solution was much much simpler? What if the lack of evidence and contradictory nonsensical messages weren't the product of supernatural forces at all but were the product of overactive imaginations trying to fill gaps in our understanding of the Universe.
Then add in some folks who want to make a living, manipulate and control people, suddenly this vast cosmos of unknowns in inhabited by the spirits of the dead wanting to charge you 50 dollars for the first fifteen minutes of the call and preachers filling your adolescent heart with guilt for all your sexual thoughts so that one day you will be a regular attendant, church member, and always pay your tithe on time. Build up these ideas not just as if they were true but as if they were sacred, Holy messages that would bring down a fiery sea of wrath if you questioned them. Build up the people that receive these messages, they become heroes, trusted, beloved, beyond the reproach of the law, hidden safely behind the skirts of “divine revelation”.
To my knowledge if there is a God he/she/it has never opened their mouth to speak a word to humanity. Yes that knowledge is very limited but that limitation is not a call for the credulity of faith but rather for added skepticism. The heavens are silent and so we have filled them with heroes and gods, legends and stories to fill the incalculable gulf of our ignorance. That might sound frightening, like we are alone, but it gives us the time to explore the rest of that circle together without fear of imaginary judgment, without bended knee to a celestial dictator or the Priest who has claimed to see visions of him. It's not frightening, not when you really think about what that means; freedom. Maybe, if there is a God, that would be his greatest gift.
Other Hubs in the Giving Credit to God Series
- Giving Credit to God
Objections are offered against the superstitious trend of giving credit to God for things he obviously didn't do. The first in a series...
- God Given Gifts?
A hub discussing the claim that your personal talent and abilities are not your own and that God deserves the credit even when you work hard to accomplish things.
- God Given Morality?
A hub analyzing and debunking the bizarre claim that morality comes from God.
- God Given Meaning?
Hub discussing the idea that the meaning of life comes from God and that without God there is no objective meaning.
- God Given Rights?
This hub deals specifically with the idea of rights from God.
- God Given Victory?
In this installment I deal with the absurd idea that God is helping people win at everything from war to the lottery
- God Given Punishment?
Deals with how diseases and natural disasters are supposedly the just and righteous punishment of God.
- God Given Morality Revisited
A further deconstruction of the idea that morality comes from God.